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That's an interesting take on it. I'm interested to hear what others think.
I just think technically-since there is no way of genetically telling if a fish will stay fresh or go to salt. That is the lose "scientific definition" I believe.

The 20" cut-off is what I have read in regulations for streams when a punchcard comes into play and a fish is retained. That would be the game departments definition when a season is open and a fish is kept in rivers known to have steelhead.

God, PLEASE, hope this does not turn into that other thread on "what is flyfishing"..

I was going for the hard definition of what a steelhead is.
 

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As for the 20" rule. It's my understanding that they wrote that to protect steelhead it rivers containing 20" trout. That way you can't just call it a big resident, but must treat all trout over 20"s as Steelhead. Eliminating that possible confusion.
 

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As for the 20" rule. It's my understanding that they wrote that to protect steelhead it rivers containing 20" trout. That way you can't just call it a big resident, but must treat all trout over 20"s as Steelhead. Eliminating that possible confusion.
Yes, sounds right.

"Jack" and "Jill" Steelhead..the rare under 20"precocious salt fish have garnered some protection under newer rules that don't allow any trout retention in most steelhead season (Winter) and allow them to be released and hopefully go back out and try again, bigger.

Jack Salmon retention would probably be treated differently than they are now if they could go back out and try again.
 

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"Juvenile Steelhead are referenced by NOAA here...
http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/steelhead-trout.html

U.S.F.S. here...
http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/steelhead-trout.html

And by WDFW here...
http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/steelhead.html

You are correct in that the "20 inch" rule is nomenclature in place for regulatory purposes, but there is the obvious existence of "juvenile Steelhead" in the water the PO asked about, unless above impossible barriers.

I maintain my position that the fish is either a resident Rainbow, or a Juvenile Steelhead. :D
 

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The fish is O. mykiss, a juvenile rainbow trout, and it might even be (high likelihood) a juvenile steelhead. However the latter cannot be known with certainty unless and until the fish migrates to salt water. The 20" thing is for regulatory purposes that usually corresponds to biology, but not always. Regulations and biology are NOT the same thing.

Sg
 

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Always been a bit of a mystery at times as I've caught a tagged steelhead kelt under 20" and have also caught bows over 20" rare but have found a few. They probably were steelhead that had been in the river long enough to regain there bright colors and spots but not sure, they look like resident rainbows to me ??? Interesting stuff !!!

Mark
 

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A few words about names and definitions: Frequently fishermen are pretty sloppy about using the terms that describe the various life stages of salmonid species. Rainbows and steelhead are all of the genus Oncorhynchus (the Pacific salmons) and the species mykiss. The two are genetically indistinguishable and the term steelhead is applied to individuals who choose to adopt an anadromous lifestyle and go to sea for a period of time before returning to fresh water to spawn. Members of this species can, and do, spawn together and their offspring can adopt either an anadromous or resident lifestyle. This is also true of the coastal cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki).

Newly hatched salmonids (those which have absorbed their egg sacs and "swum up" to emerge from the gravel of the redd) are fry who will develop into parr (as the fish shown in the photo, with its prominent parr marks, the dark fingerprint-like markings on its sides). As the young fish matures (for a steelhead, typically, in two years) it will, if destined to undertake an anadromous lifestyle, undergo a series of physiological changes which will allow it to survive the change from a fresh to a salt water environment (the process called smoltification). A visual indication of this transformation is the loss of parr marks and the change to silvery sides and a dark blue or green back. These changes occur as the fish begins its downstream migration to salt water; the term smolt is only applied to young, downstream migrant fish. Some salmonids, like pink and chum salmon fry, smoltify almost as soon as they emerge from the gravel and begin to move downstream, spending almost no time in fresh water.

Jacks are male salmonids which achieve spawning maturity a year or more before others of their cohort (most common in coho, chinook and sockeye, rare in chum and absent in pink salmon). They are relatively rare in steelhead and "jills" (the female equivalent) even rarer. A curious steelhead life history, fairly common in streams of northern California and Oregon, but rare to the north is the "half pounder". The half pounder is an anadromous rainbow who returns to the river, even though not sexually mature after only few months in salt water, which will, after a period in fresh water, return to the ocean and thereafter follow a more conventional steelhead life style. Oddly enough, this life history is far more common among anadromous coastal cutthroat. In some rivers, as many as 40% of sea-run cutthroat returning to fresh water for the first time will not yet be sexually mature.
 

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Thank you Preston, some interesting information. The breadth of knowledge on this site is amazing.

Chris
 

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Atlantic salmon.
What is spooky is actually catching an Atlantic in this state. Sometime back pre-internet, I caught a couple out of Rocky Ford without knowing anything about their presence. I talked to a few other guys when there WERE only a few fisherman each day..and was told some had escaped the hatchery.
About that same time, there were large Atlantic Salmon in a few Olympic lakes. Big, big fish.

No plants in this state for some time to my knowledge..they were a great thrill to see!
 
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